As a marketing professional, I often hear jazz musicians struggle with the idea of self-promotion, especially on social media. Not only is there a lot of stigma related to social media, but getting involved often feels overwhelming, for its learning curve as well as its time commitment. But all of those challenges have been "cracked" by so many great brands and businesses, and each of those models can be applied to marketing in jazz, for both artists and educators. Part of a multi-part marketing article series, these tips are meant to empower you to jumpstart your marketing so that you have more time and energy to do what you love to do – make jazz!
1. Get comfortable with self-promotion
First you have to get into the mindset of being okay with self-promotion. Many artists tend to become shy and uncomfortable with talking about themselves. But it is crucial to think through the thoughts and feelings that lead to this discomfort, and accept marketing as an important part of a well-rounded career. Self-promotion is not a "dirty" phrase and there is no implied egocentric activity with creating awareness of your music, your brand, and your love for jazz. Marketing yourself is actually more about developing a relationship with your fans and creating a dialogue about jazz and the things that are important to you. As you'll read below, there are many dimensions to developing your brand online, which do not revolve around the typical self-promotion as we know it.
2. Embrace a 2-way dialogue with fans
The next concern artists may have is "I don't know what to post about. How many ways are there to tell people to come to my shows or buy my albums?" One major way that social media has changed marketing, especially in music, is that artists are now able to create a dialogue with their fans in a meaningful way. The benefit of this is being able to create relationships with fans, which encourages them to actually buy records, attend shows, etc. The accompanying challenge is that artists have to think deeper about what kinds of messages to post. In general, the golden rule is – post things on social media that you would say at a cocktail party. So, just like you wouldn't go up to people at a cocktail party (whether friends or strangers), and ONLY talk about your upcoming show, you wouldn't do that online, either. But – you would ask them questions, find ways to get to know them, and reply back to their thoughts. Apply this mode of thinking to your posts online – ask people how they first got into jazz. Or if they are seeing any great shows this weekend. Or if they have a new favorite album they can recommend. This takes a huge burden off you to come up with new content and helps fans feel closer to you.
3. Identify the topics that are important to you
Another way to combat the "what should I post?" blues is taking an inventory of all the things that make you who you are, specifically the "you" as a public brand. Understanding the key components of your brand is the one thing that keeps social media profiles from turning into the dreaded "look what I had for breakfast"-style unrelated messaging. That is a stigma left over from the early days of social media because social media today is about so much more than that. Were you influenced by specific people or artists? Share it! Are you obsessed with Ella Fitzgerald? Share it! Do you have a favorite local jazz club that you visit often? Share it! Do you have an interesting method of warming up your voice? Share it! Do you have strong opinions about music education? Share it! Did you just buy a great piece of gear? Share it! In my next article, I will provide a list of sample topics that you can customize and use as potential posts. Meanwhile, I suggest making a "mind map" by just jotting down the topics that mean the most to you. You'll see that there is so much you can discuss your fans.
4. Promote your friends
Running your social media accounts doesn’t mean that you can only promote yourself and your music. Try to make a conscious effort to promote your friends, partners, and fellow musicians, as a way to build good will among your peers and greater value among your fans. Did you just see someone great perform last night? Post about it. Did your friend release a new album? Link to it. Did your mentor get nominated for a GRAMMY? Tell us all about it! Did one of your students just get a scholarship to a great school? Congratulate them publicly! Remember: always be sure to link back to their social media profiles, so you can share your shout-out with them.
5. Be willing to give things away for free
Before you "egg" my car for suggesting this, please hear me out. Giving things away for free develops trust between you and your current fans and removes a barrier for gathering new fans. This is a controversial methodology, as it is still a topic of discussion within the music industry and especially jazz. Yes, artists make their money through selling music and performing at shows. But we forget that sometimes it takes offering something up, to allow people to get a taste of your music, in exchange for developing a strong relationship and emotional connection with you as an artist. Giving things away comes in many forms and I'm certainly not suggesting giving away the farm. But I do see a lot of artists guarding every second of their music, which can limit their promotion potential. Some ideas on giving away your music in order to sell more of it (or sell show tickets, or get booked more, etc): record an off-album song as a giveaway, in exchange for getting people to sign up on your mailing list; film an acoustic version of one of your songs or a cover; film a short behind the scenes of a rehearsal; write down one of your practice techniques and post it on your website… The possibilities are endless. And I can suggest this with confidence because this model works so well in the business world as well as in other parts of the music industry.
6. Make social media scheduling programs your best friend
When you have determined the mix of topics, messages, and images/videos that you want to promote, everything is made exponentially easier by taking some time to schedule your messaging. My favorite resources to use are Hootsuite and Buffer – both of which offer free scheduling mechanisms for Twitter and Facebook, so you can input all your messages and set them to be released throughout the week. For Instagram, the best I've found is Latergramme. Taking one hour at the beginning of the week to load in all your posts is a huge load off your mind. But – the major caveat for this is that you can't just "set it and forget it." This method should be supplemented with setting alerts when people interact with you. Turn the notifications mechanisms on so that you can see when people comment on your posts, so that you may reply back immediately or within the next 12 hours. Be sure to answer any questions, reply to any relevant comments, and hit "like" on all Facebook comments. There can be some great networking that can come out of this kind of interaction, so be sure you use it to its fullest potential.
7. Pick your favorite social networks
There are many social networks out there and trying to be everything to everyone, everywhere, can take up a lot of time, especially when you don't have someone doing your marketing for you. So take it slow and pick the networks that feel right for you. First – definitely register your name on all networks, so they are there when you are ready for them. Then, think of what comes most naturally to you… Do you take pictures everywhere you go? Dedicate your time to Instagram. Do you enjoy short, concrete thoughts? Try Twitter. Does the Facebook interface feel most natural to you? Focus on that! It's better to build an audience on one network and be able to post every day, instead of trying to post on all networks, becoming overwhelmed, and not posting at all.
8. Enlist help from unlikely sources
Marketing is an important part of your musical success, but one person can only do so much. If you are lucky enough to have a team that includes a marketing person, or have a budget that allows hiring a marketing person, great! But these resources may not always be available… so the next best thing is to enlist help from those around you. Does your spouse attend every one of your shows? Task him or her with taking photos of you backstage. Do you have a friend that is a great videographer? Ask if she can film a clip during one of your shows. Is your drummer sitting out for one of the songs? Have him snap a photo of you from the stage. Is there a studio assistant to help with a recording session? Have her take some behind-the-scenes shots and interviews. Help is all around us and there's no shame in asking those who are invested in our success to give us a hand.
Remember: the most unique aspect of jazz is the community that we are all so fortunate to be part of. The goal with social media is to recreate this community online, with your friends, fans, and fellow jazz lovers. When you think of marketing in this way, suddenly, everything will become far less overwhelming and you'll find yourself achieving the very goals you didn't think social media could help you achieve.